Lee unveils push for pedestrian safety measures

As a coalition calls on Mayor Ed Lee to support a plan to end pedestrian deaths in The City within 10 years, he made his own push Wednesday for a driver education campaign, planned safety measures for two busy streets and ramped up police enforcement.

But the mayor’s announcement has done little to soften the stance of groups like Walk San Francisco that are rallying behind the Vision Zero proposal that Supervisor Jane Kim introduced Tuesday for approval.

Lee said a “Be Nice, Look Twice” public-awareness campaign will launch next month.

“By looking out for each other and by driving more slowly and carefully, we can make a big impact on improving safety for those walking in San Francisco,” Lee said. The mayor also proposes efforts to better educate drivers of trucks and construction vehicles by 2015.

Another measure will involve police increasing traffic enforcement at 50 of the most dangerous intersections. Lee noted The City has received $2.9 million in federal funding that will pay for safety improvements on South Van Ness Avenue and Polk Street, with work beginning in 2017.

Natalie Burdick, of Walk SF, a nonprofit that promotes walking, said the mayor’s announcement “acknowledges the deadly problem of traffic crimes on our city’s streets, but does not go far enough.”

“Rather than a piecemeal approach that doesn’t even offer safety training until 2015, or construction until 2017 for two specific streets,” Burdick says, “The City should adopt a Vision Zero goal to eliminate every traffic death, whether it’s a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian, over the next 10 years starting now.”

Included in Vision Zero is the implementation of at least one pedestrian-safety measure, such as separated bike lanes or left-turn restrictions, every month in high-risk areas.

Focus on pedestrian safety citywide has reached a high for several reasons. There were 21 pedestrian deaths and four bicyclist fatalities last year, the most since 2001.

High-profile incidents like the death of a 24-year-old bicyclist in South of Market raised questions about the Police Department’s handling of such incidents. It took a bicycle advocate to unearth surveillance footage capturing the collision from a nearby business after police said no footage was found. The discussion also comes as city officials are looking to the November ballot for revenue measures for the overall transportation system and are continuing to debate funding priorities.

The pedestrian-safety debate continues today at a joint meeting between the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee and the Police Commission. The hearing will focus on the Police Department’s handling of traffic collisions. Supervisor David Campos, who requested the hearing, said that he wants to “push for better enforcement and more thorough investigations.”

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